KUALA LUMPUR, March 14 ― PKR’s Chua Tian Chang claimed trial today to sedition for allegedly linking Umno to the on-going Sulu intrusion into Sabah.

“This is a politically-motivated charge. I will fight this slander to clear my name,” the PKR vice-president, popularly known as Tian Chua, told the Sessions Court.

Chua did not enter a plea.

Deputy public prosecutor Yusaini Amer Abdul Karim earlier told the court that Chua was being charged under Section 4(1) (b) of the Sedition Act 1948 and would be liable under Section 4 (1) of the same law.

Chua was charged with purportedly making statements that the gunfire attacks in Lahad Datu is believed to be a planned conspiracy by the Umno government to divert the people’s attention and frighten them and that the incident raised doubts over the Umno government’s wayang mainan (shadow play).

In the same charge sheet that was read out in court, Chua was also alleged to have said that the intrusion into Lahad Datu is only the government’s sandiwara (drama) to frighten the people as if it was not peaceful in Sabah; and purportedly saying there is a conspiracy by the Umno government to divert the attention of Sabahans, particularly over the issuing of identity cards to foreigners.

His lawyer, N. Surendran, told the Sessions Court judge Tn Hj Mohamad Sekeri Mamat that he will file an application in the High Court to strike out the charge against Chua, claiming that this was an abuse of process and politically-motivated.

If convicted, Chua faces a fine of up to RM5,000 and jail term of up to three years or both as this is his first offence, but may be jailed for up to five years for subsequent offences.

He was later released on a RM5,000 bail.

The Sessions Court also fixed April 12 for mention.

On March 1, the Batu MP allegedly described the Sulu intrusion into Lahad Datu as an attempt by the “Umno government” to divert attention away from the so-called “Projek IC” in Sabah.

“There is a conspiracy by the Umno government to shift the attention of Sabahans, especially in the issue of giving identity cards to foreigners,” Chua was quoted as saying by Keadilan Daily, PKR’s news portal.

Earlier today, Chua’s supporters had a brief altercation with the police over what his lawyers claim was an attempt to arrest him.

“I think it’s totally unfair and it’s very discriminatory,” his lawyer Latheefa Koya told reporters, claiming that there was no similar treatment for Umno politicians, ministers or the families of ministers.

Another lawyer representing Chua, Eric Paulsen, conceded that an arrest before someone was charged was within the discretionary powers of the police, but claimed that it would amount to an abuse of power as Chua had co-operated by showing up in the Duta court complex.

Police later told reporters that they were following normal court procedures and had only wanted to escort Chua to the courtroom.

The Johor police had a few days earlier recorded statements from Chua, Keadilan Daily’s editor Fazallah Pit and its journalist, Aisha Geoffery.

Johor police chief DCP Datuk Mohd Mokhtar Mohd Shariff was yesterday reported saying that 82 of the 318 police reports lodged against Chua were filed in the state.

Today, Latheefa pointed out that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had last July said the Sedition Act 1948 will be repealed and replaced with the National Harmony Act.

Last October, de-facto law minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Aziz was reported saying that the law to replace the Sedition Act will be tabled in Parliament this year.

On February 9, an estimated 200 Filipino gunmen claiming to be followers of self-styled sultan of Sulu, Jamalul Kiram III, set foot in Kampung Tanduo, a village about 130 km from Lahad Datu, a coastal town on Sabah’s east coast.

A total of 66 people were reported killed in the Sulu incursion as of Tuesday, including 56 Filipino militants, eight Malaysian policemen and one Malaysian soldier, and a teenage boy of unknown nationality.

Ida Lim, Malaysian Insider